Indianapolis Museum of Art, Allora & Calzadilla present Gloria at 54th International Art Exhibition La Biennale Di Venezia
posted on 05/31/2011

© Andrew Bordwin

INDIANAPOLIS, May 31, 2011 — 2007 U.S. all-around champion David Durante and 2005 World all-around champion and 2008 Olympic team silver-medalist Chellsie Memmel will perform as part of the grand opening of Gloria, presented by the Indianapolis Museum of Art and the collaborative team Jennifer Allora and Guillermo Calzadilla, at the U.S. Pavilion at La Biennale di Venezia June 4-Nov. 27, 2011.

Durante and Memmel, along with 2000 Olympian Steve McCain and former U.S. rhythmic gymnastics all-around champion Olga Karmansky, will perform on the works Body in Flight (Delta) and Body in Flight (American) as part of the exhibition's unveiling. Olympic decathlon gold-medalist Dan O'Brien will be one of the first runners to perform on the work titled Track and Field. The other three pieces are Algorithm, Armed Freedom Lying on a Sunbed, and Half MastFull Mast. The works employ a variety of artistic practices including sculpture, performance, video, and sound elements. The six works re-present familiar symbols, forms, and actions to destabilize existing narratives around national identity, global commerce, international competition, democracy, and militarism.

The Indianapolis Museum of Art partnered with USA Gymnastics and USA Track & Field on Body in Flight (Delta), Body in Flight (American), and Track and Field, which will incorporate performances by athletes at intervals throughout the duration of the exhibition. Body in Flight (Delta) and Body in Flight (American) are full-scale reproductions of the latest designs for business class seats found on U.S. commercial airlines. The stained wooden sculptures substitute for the balance beam and pommel horse, creating an unusual platform for a new language of movement that "contaminates" strict gymnastic routines. Track and Field will feature a full-scale, overturned military tank that has been repurposed by superimposing a functioning treadmill above its right track, on which USA Track & Field athletes will run.

Practice photos by Andrew Bordwin
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"The poetic, unexpected works included in Gloria echo the fragmented, unstable, and contradictory nature of today's world," said Lisa Freiman, senior curator and chair of the IMA's Department of Contemporary Art and commissioner of the U.S. Pavilion at the 2011 La Biennale di Venezia. "The projects are quasi-Surrealist interventions that are meant to propel us into questioning official narratives. These absurd and paradoxical gestures beg us to consider the relationships among art, war, nationalism, and athletic competition."

The title Gloria translates from Italian and Spanish to Glory. Gloria references military, religious, spiritual, Olympic, economic, and cultural grandeur, and points to the pomp and splendor of the national pavilions. The title also references the numerous pop songs that the female name has inspired.

"We liked the idea of gendering the U.S. Pavilion with a female Spanish name: Gloria. All of the works follow in a spirit of critical play and profanation," said Jennifer Allora and Guillermo Calzadilla.

Algorithm, a towering, interactive sculpture, combines a fully functioning Diebold automated teller machine (ATM) and a custom-made pipe organ. Each financial transaction that visitors conduct, from checking balances to withdrawing cash, generates a unique score. The musical arrangement selected via the ATM keyboard is made audible at varying degrees of volume by driving pressurized air through the organ pipes. The final collection of sounds ranging from atonal material to more classically structured melodies, harmonies, and phrases will generate an algorithmic musical soundtrack for the interior of the pavilion.

Armed Freedom Lying on a Sunbed is an altered bronze replica of the Statue of Freedom, also known as Freedom Triumphant in War and Peace (and sometimes referred to as Armed Freedom), which has crowned the dome of the U.S. Capitol Building since 1863. Armed Freedom rests inside a Solaris sun bed with bright, almost blinding light creating a hallucinatory halo emanating from the pavilion's rotunda.

Half MastFull Mast (2010) is a twenty-one minute video created on the island of Vieques, Puerto Rico. The piece consists of two projected videos, one above the other. Each depicts a different landscape, but both share a common cinematic framing of a flagpole in the center of the image. The result of the two images together creates the appearance of one single flagpole connected between the two screens, despite the image's otherwise obvious disjunctive backgrounds. One gymnast at a time enters one of the two screens and takes the position of a human flag. Depending on which screen the gymnasts appear, top or bottom, the flag seems to be flying at full mast or half mast, in sites that symbolically mark places of victory or setback in the island's struggle for peace, decontamination, ecological justice, and sustainable development.

In conjunction with La Biennale di Venezia, the IMA will use its resources in new media and community outreach to provide an unprecedented variety of educational and public programming to complement Allora & Calzadilla's exhibition in the U.S. Pavilion. Engaging audiences in Venice, Puerto Rico, Indianapolis, and beyond, programs will include social media integration, video documentation, public talks, and related publications. The Indianapolis Museum of Art has partnered with Museo de Arte de Ponce (Ponce, Puerto Rico) and the Peggy Guggenheim Collection (Venice, Italy) to provide an educational program for underserved teens from all three locations. The students will meet in Venice during the summer and will document their experiences throughout the program on Facebook, Flickr, YouTube, and the blog "Our Voices/La Nostra Voces/Nuestra Voz" (www.imamuseum.org/ourvoices).

The leading sponsors of the United States Pavilion in 2011 are the United States Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and Hugo Boss. The Pavilion is also made possible through the generous support of the following: Diana and Moisés Berezdivin, Ignacio J. López and Laura Guerra, Donald R. Mullen, Jr., Christina and Carlos Trápaga, Café Yaucono, Christie Digital Systems USA, Inc., and Diebold.

To learn more about Gloria and the U.S. Pavilion, please visit: http://www.imamuseum.org/venice.

Background information

  • Allora & Calzadilla. Working together since 1995, Jennifer Allora (b. 1974, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) and Guillermo Calzadilla (b. 1971, Havana, Cuba) are a collaborative that lives and works in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Allora & Calzadilla create works that blend sculpture, photography, performance, sound, and video. Their work has been featured in solo exhibitions internationally, including at MoMA, New York (2010), Kunstmuseum Krefeld, Museum Haus Esters, Krefeld (2009), Haus der Kunst in Münich (2008), Serpentine Gallery and Whitechapel Art Gallery in London (2007), Palais de Tokyo in Paris (2006), Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam (2008), Kunsthalle Zürich in Zürich (2007), National Museum of Art in Oslo (2009), and the Renaissance Society in Chicago (2007), among others. The collaborative pair has also been included in group exhibitions at the Princeton University Art Museum (2010), 24th and 29th Bienal de São Paulo (1998/2010), Astrup Fearnley Museet for Moderne Kunst, Oslo (2009), Prospect1 New Orleans (2008), 16th Biennale of Sydney (2008), 8e and 9e Biennale de Lyon (2005/2007), 10th International Istanbul Biennial (2007), Whitney Biennial (2006), the Musée d'Art Moderne de La Ville de Paris/Arc (2004) and the Centre Pompidou in Paris (2010), the New Museum in New York (2008), Walker Arts Center in Minneapolis (2003), and Barbican (2008) and Tate Modern Galleries (2003) in London, among others. Allora received a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Richmond in Virginia (1996) and a Master of Science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (2003) and was a fellow at the Whitney Museum of American Art Independent Study Program. Calzadilla received a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Escuela de Artes Plásticas, San Juan, Puerto Rico (1996) and a Master of Fine Arts from Bard College (2003).

  • La Biennale di Venezia. La Biennale di Venezia has for over a century been one of the most prestigious cultural institutions in the world. Since its founding in 1895, it has promoted contemporary culture, new ideas, and artistic trends through major international exhibitions. The 54th International Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia will take place June 4 through November 27, 2011 and is directed by the art historian and critic Bice Curiger.

  • U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. The U.S. Pavilion is organized by the Indianapolis Museum of Art and is presented by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the U.S. Department of State, which supports and manages the official United States participation at selected international exhibitions.

  • Contemporary Art at the Indianapolis Museum of Art. The IMA's robust contemporary art program is a model for how encyclopedic museums engage the art of our time. With a renewed focus on its contemporary collection, programs, and publications, the IMA has been actively seeking out the works of emerging and mid-career international artists through both gift and acquisition, and organizing major traveling exhibitions and newly commissioned projects. In recent years, the IMA has worked with artists including Ingrid Calame, Maria Magdalena Campos-Pons, Amy Cutler, Tara Donovan, Orly Genger, Jeppe Hein, Robert Irwin, Tony Feher, Josephine Meckseper, Joshua Mosley, Type A, and Ernesto Neto, among others. In June 2010, the IMA launched its new 100 Acres: The Virginia B. Fairbanks Art & Nature Park to wide critical acclaim, and it has been hailed across the United States as a new model for site-responsive sculpture parks in the 21st century. Among the backdrop of woodlands, wetlands, and a 35-acre lake, the park currently includes eight commissioned art installations by artists from throughout the world as well as the Ruth Lilly Visitor Pavilion designed by architect Marlon Blackwell. 100 Acres is one of only a few sculpture parks in the United States dedicated to the ongoing commission of site-responsive art work.

  • Indianapolis Museum of Art. Encompassing 152 acres of gardens and grounds, the Indianapolis Museum of Art is among the 10 largest encyclopedic art museums in the United States and features significant collections of African, American, Asian, European, and contemporary art, as well as a newly established collection of design arts. The IMA offers visitors an expansive view of arts and culture through its collection of more than 54,000 works of art that span 5,000 years of history from across the world's continents. The collections include paintings, sculpture, furniture and design objects, prints, drawings, and photographs, as well as textiles and costumes. Recognizing the IMA's positive impact on its community, the Museum was named a 2009 National Medal for Museum and Library Services – the nation's highest honor for museums and libraries. The IMA's commitment to free general admission, programming for schools and teachers, environmental leadership, and online initiatives were among cited community contributions in the Museum's selection for the award.

  • David Durante. David Durante (b. 1980) is the 2007 U.S. all-around men's gymnastics champion and was one of the three alternates to the U.S. Olympic Team for men's gymnastics for the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, China. He was a member of the U.S. Men's Team that finished fourth at the 2007 World Artistic Gymnastics Championships. Durante, a native of Garwood, New Jersey, graduated from Stanford University, where he was a scholarship athlete in gymnastics. After earning his degree in human biology, Durante moved to the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado, as a member of the men's gymnastics resident athlete program to concentrate on his dream of competing in the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. After the Olympic Games, he was an assistant gymnastics coach at Stanford, during which the team won its first national NCAA title in 14 years. Durante, who holds dual U.S.-Italian citizenship, also spent a year in Italy following his one-year stint at Stanford.

  • Chellsie Memmel. Chellsie Memmel (b. 1988) helped the U.S. women win the team silver medal at the 2008 Olympic Games, where she only competed on the uneven bars due to an injured ankle. She has won six career world medals, including three gold and three silver. At the 2005 World Championships, Memmel became the first U.S. woman to win the World all-around gold medal since Shannon Miller in 1994, as well as claimed silver on the uneven bars and balance beam. Memmel burst into the spotlight at the 2003 Pan American Games, where she won five medals, including team and all-around gold. Originally an alternate on the 2003 World Championships Team, she was cast into the lineup after injuries and illness of three team members. Memmel helped the U.S. win its first-ever team World gold medal, earning the highest all-around marks of any U.S. gymnast during team finals. She also tied with a U.S. teammate for the uneven bars gold medal.

  • Dan O'Brien. When Dan O'Brien (b. 1966) won the 1996 Olympic gold medal, he became the first American winner in the sport since 1976. As an Olympic gold medalist in the Decathlon and world record holder for the Indoor Heptathlon and Indoor Pentathlon, O'Brien is officially considered the "World's Greatest Athlete," and his name is synonymous with athletic achievement and success both on and off the field. O'Brien has spent his entire life overcoming obstacles. Only months after his failure to make the 1992 Olympic team, he set a new World Record at the Deca Star Invitational in Talence, France—defeating the 1992 Olympic gold medalist Robert Zmelik. He went on to win the 1993 and 1995 World Championships, the 1994 Goodwill Games, and three U.S. Championships—all leading to the 1996 Olympic gold medal in Atlanta.

  • USA Gymnastics. Based in Indianapolis, USA Gymnastics is the national governing body for gymnastics in the United States. Its mission is to encourage participation and the pursuit of excellence in the sport. Its disciplines include men's and women's artistic gymnastics, rhythmic gymnastics, trampoline and tumbling, acrobatic gymnastics, and group gymnastics. For more information, log on to www.usagym.org.

  • USA Track & Field. USA Track & Field (USATF) is the national governing body for track & field, long-distance running, and race walking in the United States. USATF encompasses the world's oldest organized sports, the world's number one track & field team, the most-watched events at the Olympics, the number one high school and junior high school participatory sport, and more than 30 million adult runners in the United States. For more information, log on to www.usatf.org.